OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, we’ve brought on food writer Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian and ecologist, to highlight different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she offers a recipe for sticky-sweet and smoky-savory blackberry barbecue beans.
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When Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1868, the Pacific Northwest was still very much the wild frontier for European-descended settlers. That said, our region shared a lot of culinary traditions with New England, since so many of our early settlers came from the Northeast. Dishes like porky beans slow-cooked over dying coals were as much staples of the Northwest logging camp dining hall as they were the Northeast supper table. Why was molasses used in early versions of baked beans? Read on to find out!
Food sovereignty for African refugees, the milk spilleth over, a handy tip from a reader and your chance to win a $250 Zupan’s gift card
Freshly picked morsels from the Pacific Northwest food universe:
Superabundant Survey: We want to hear from you!
As this newsletter continues growing and improving, we want to ensure we’re sending you the stories that make you hungry for more. We created this short survey that will help us learn how you engage with food, food stories and recipes. Bonus: When you fill it out, you’ll be entered to win a $250 Zupan’s gift card!
Vegetables for Oregon’s African refugees
For refugees, the challenges of settling in a new country aren’t just about orienting oneself to a new language and foreign landscape; an often overlooked obstacle to integrating into a new community can be a simple matter of not knowing how to cook unfamiliar ingredients. OPB’s Jenn Chávez reports on the challenges African refugees face in maintaining connections to their traditional foodways and how local nonprofit Outgrowing Hunger aims to remedy that by giving gardeners the seeds to plant a brighter (and better-fed) future in their new home.
Too much of a good thing
According to a recent post in the Portland subreddit, Schoch Dairy and Creamery in Hillsboro is facing a problem: The warm weather that followed a long rainy season means its pastures have been going gangbusters, and their cows are producing more milk than they can sell. They’ve been having to dump out their excess, which is a sin — their rich milk is preferred by local small cheese makers like Urban Cheesecraft’s Claudia Lucero. If you want to do your bit to help reduce waste, you can find Claudia’s ricotta recipe here, and use it to make our gnudi with pea shoots.
Reader offers rhubarb sauce tip
Mary Beth James-Thibodeaux in Portland wrote in after reading last week’s thinly veiled cry for help (ahem, “newsletter”) that after scorching many a rhubarb sauce in her own kitchen that her mother showed her the trick of using the microwave instead. (Pastry chef, cookbook author and Pix Patisserie owner Cheryl Wakerhauser also recommends the microwave for making perfectly custardy crème pâtissière.) Mary also noted a difference in acidity between the rhubarb she grew up eating on the California coast and in Oregon. Is it the terroir, or differences in rhubarb varieties?
Got questions or tips? Send them our way! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good things in markets
Going shopping? Expect to find sweet snap peas and alliums (spring onions are still very much available) as well as new potatoes and the reddest strawberries. French breakfast radishes, crisp baby hakurei turnips and microgreens are here to prettify your salads; herbs are flowering and so are the edible pansies and calendula. Garlic is beginning to send up blooms in the garden but we haven’t seen garlic scapes in markets yet. Spring mushrooms like morels and the very first porcini of the season are also showing up alongside cultivated oyster mushrooms. Side Yard Farm posted photos of its succulent celtuce on its Instagram earlier this week — try to find some of this funky lettuce relative (you might see it in Asian markets) to add a little nutty flavor and crisp texture to your stir-fries.
Recipe: Blackberry barbecue beans
Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, which means (in a typical year, when we don’t have early-May heat waves) the beginning of grilling season. While most folks will be breaking out the burgers and hot dogs, we’ll be over here with this big old pan of barbecue beans made with Oregon blackberries. These are cooked in a cast iron skillet on the grill, not too differently from how they’d have been cooked out on the open range (the beans, salt pork and molasses certainly would’ve been par for the course!).
An early iteration of the dish, made by Native Americans in what is now New England, was sweetened with maple syrup, but by the 18th century white settlers used molasses to avoid the British sugar tax; we use brown sugar here (the molasses is still in there) but you can use honey instead if you like. These beans are smoky, sweet and savory; if you want to make them vegetarian or vegan, just leave out the bacon (use 1 tablespoon of cooking oil instead) and swap in soy sauce for the Worcestershire, and you can cook them in the oven if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Serves 8.
An earlier version of this recipe (also developed by Heather Arndt Anderson) appeared on the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission website.
2 strips bacon, diced
½ medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brewed coffee, black
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 cups frozen blackberries or marionberries
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups cooked (or 2 cans) small white beans such as Great Northern, drained
- Preheat the oven to 275º (or if using the grill, shovel the coals over to one side to create a cooler side for the beans).
- Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other heavy bottomed pan) over medium heat. Add the diced bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered out and the bacon begins to brown.
- Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion starts to become glossy and fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the coffee, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, then add the rest of the ingredients except the beans and stir to combine.
- Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the berries are soft and jammy. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, then stir in the beans.
- Bake (or set it over the cool side of the grill) until the sauce is thick and bubbly, about 90 minutes.